In 2002, while six months pregnant with my first child, I launched my stylish stationery company, the Bonnie Marcus Collection “where fashion meets paper,” from my kitchen table in Westport, Connecticut.
Whereas some moms-to-be pour over parenting books before their baby is born, I chose to read all the business books I could find. I was determined to start a business that I could work on from home.
I had a strong background in event planning as a New York City wedding planner for many years, as well as the Director of Special Events at the 92nd Street Y (a major cultural center in New York).
I had enjoyed planning all sorts of events, from beginning to end, but as an art major in college, my favorite part of the process was helping clients with their invitations, as they set the tone for everything to follow.
I commonly found that people had a difficult time finding “the perfect invitation” as most of what was available at the time was very traditional, and my clients were looking for invitations that were fun, fashionable, and representative of themselves.
I have always had a “passion for fashion” (having worked with designer Diane Von Furstenberg after college) so I decided to try to fill a void in the market and combine my expertise in wedding planning with my love of fashion, and launch a stylish stationery company.
My designs included original watercolor illustrations of glamorous brides on their wedding day and chic, fashionable moms-to-be out shopping for baby. Since we were one of the first companies to bring fashion to the world of paper, our designs were quickly featured by top publications and we developed a strong celebrity following, which helped to get our name out there.
My secret to success in business is to never be totally comfortable where you are. Even the stationery industry has changed dramatically in the ten years that I have owned my own company. When I launched the business, people actually left their homes and went to retail stores to buy traditional holiday cards and wedding invitations!
Today, it’s amazing that the majority of the holiday cards sold are those personalized with family photographs and purchased online. Also, today the majority of our invitation sales, even for weddings, are from online retailers.
Technology has affected the paper industry in a very big way. Thankfully, we recognized the shift in consumer purchasing early, and we developed strong partnerships with experts in the photo card industry, like Tiny Prints and Kodak, as well as with a number of top online retailers.
Develop strategic partnerships.
When I started my company, Target had approached me to work with them, but I wasn’t able to meet the price points that they desired as a small company. Of course, that didn’t stop me! It just got my wheels turning to try to figure out how we could make the relationship happen.
Instead of producing the product ourselves, we developed strategic partnerships with a number of companies that have a strong relationship with Target, like American Greetings, for greeting cards. The relationship has been very successful, and we have an exciting new collection of fashionable gift wrap launching in all Target stores in June.
The grass is always greener.
Our designs were everywhere, but as a new mom, I was feeling guilty about the amount of time I was spending on my growing business (my “baby girl”) vs. the amount of time I was spending with my son at home. When I was at the office, I felt guilty that I wasn’t at home, and when I was at home, I felt guilty that I had so much work to do and I wasn’t at the office.
My “low point” actually came at nursery school drop off, when I realized that all of the other moms were getting together for coffee, lunch with the kids, and playdates after school. I felt like I was missing out on all of the fun. So, I decided to make the time to join them, and when I did, I realized that many of them were in fact looking for jobs and wanted to work, so I realized that “the grass is always greener” (and I actually ended up hiring many wonderful, talented moms to help me grow my business!).
Take time to work AWAY from your desk.
One of the best things I ever did for my business was to take the time to enter Count Me In’s “Make Mine a Million Dollar Business” contest in 2006. I was a winner of the contest, and not only did it provide me with resources to help grow my business, it also introduced me to a fabulous group of entrepreneurs who regularly meet and share resources to help each other’s businesses grow and thrive. Networking in groups like this has been integral to the success of my business.
Although there is always a lot of work to do in the office, I make a point to get out of the office and learn and share with others in business as well. Also, I make the time to “give back” and work with a number of non-profit groups in my community, like partnering with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, an organization that helps so many women just like ourselves.
Today (ten years and three children later) my stylish stationery business is going strong.
We have over 3,000 fresh, fashionable designs, and sell our products to thousands of retailers around the world, including Bloomingdales, Bed Bath and Beyond, and most recently, an exclusive collection for Target.